Vancouver’s Best Vegetarian Restaurants
January 1, 2010
Radha Walking up the stairs into Radha, you’re greeted by warm brick walls, candlelight, hardwood floors, and, if you time it right, a spectacular sunset through floor-to-ceiling windows. By day a yoga studio, the space at night becomes a locally sourced, organic restaurant that provides a gourmet answer to the question, “What do vegans eat?” Here you’ll find the best (and one of the cheapest: appetizers and desserts, $8; mains top out at $15) vegetarian meals in Vancouver. Careful presentation and clever takes on omnivore standards (including a decadent, yet light, cashew-cream based cheesecake—the best, vegan or not, I’ve ever had) prove that vegan cuisine can be refined, elegant, and creative. You’ll find Main Street hipsters and buttoned-down baby boomers enjoying tangy braised tempeh, softly wilted greens, and a crispy potato rösti topped with house-made sauerkraut and a zesty Dijon mustard sauce. Seasonally focused menus ensure that you’re eating fresh—fall selections included jerk-spiced stuffed peppers served alongside a sweet and nutty quinoa pilaf and smoky-sweet grilled corn. Always available is a raw special (for example, fresh zucchini “noodles” tossed with a zippy green cashew curry) and a local appetizer (hand-rolled gnocchi with earthy mushrooms and a garlicky pesto). Don’t forget the cheesecake. Open Wednesday to Saturday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
728 Main St., 604-605-0011. Radhavancouver.org
Dharma Kitchen A cozy, unassuming, Buddhist vegan room offering the city’s best chai—spicy, smooth, and just sweet enough—and a lemongrass mushroom appetizer that elevates simple ingredients (garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mushrooms, and citrus) to an art form. As for mains, stick to the right side of the page, forgoing the rather pedestrian vegan burgers in favour of what Dharma does best: rice bowls and piquantly sauced tofu entrées. The red curry tofu, savoury and spicy, is served with jasmine or brown rice and steamed broccoli. Tasty and energizing, it deftly sidesteps the self-sacrificing, ascetic vegan stereotype. For potato lovers, try either of the bowls: potatoes, vegetables, and tofu or tempeh in a rich sauce of your choice. Avoid the miso-tahini and opt for creamy coconut curry or the moderately spicy Thai peanut sauce. For rice bowl enthusiasts, the Nu Cao bowl is a heaping mound of delicately steamed veggies over rice topped with citrusy marinated tempeh and a fiery peanut sauce.
3667 W. Broadway, 604-738-3899
Milder and more exotic than its northern cousin, South Indian food is, by its nature, vegetarian-friendly. And Chutney Villa does South Indian right. The Manga Thenga Sundal appetizer—coconut, green mango, and chickpeas—is delightfully refreshing. As for mains, the dosas (airy crepes made from white lentils and rice) come in both vegan and vegetarian options. Mondays and Wednesdays boast a vegan feast cleverly showcasing rice three ways. Subtly sweet coconut-rice pairs well with a delicately spiced lentil curry, while basmati rice and light rice crepes give two different tantalizing results when paired with a creamy coconut-milk-based vegetable curry. On Sundays, the dosas, rice dishes, and curries, lifted by an unexpected selection of chutneys (including sweet banana and tangy carrot-ginger), make for a satisfying brunch. Friendly, efficient service rounds out the experience. (Chutney Villa participates in the Ocean Wise program, using only the least environmentally detrimental seafood.)
147 E. Broadway, 604-872-2228. Chutneyvilla.com
The Naam Vancouver’s oldest vegetarian eatery serves up hearty fare to college students, late-night partiers, and old hippies around the clock. The mismatched chairs and local art create a comfortable atmosphere that’s matched by a relaxed approach to service. On a weekend evening you might wait in line for an hour, then wait another 45 minutes for your food, as singer-songwriters earnestly strum. The lengthy menu (made more vegan-friendly of late by the deservedly hyped new Daiya cheese—cassava-root-based, free of all the major allergens, it melts unlike other vegan cheeses) features crisp salads overflowing with fresh vegetables (if you don’t love sprouts, intervene when you order) and the addictive namesake dressing; saucy dragon bowls; and a variety of entrées. The Naam Steak Platter offers a succulent nut-based patty in creamy miso gravy served with signature sesame potato wedges. Whatever you select, large, budget-friendly portions ensure a full belly and take-home leftovers. Weekday mornings boast one of the cheapest organic brunches in town: fluffy pancakes, scrambled eggs (or tofu), and outstanding veggie sausages for $5.50.
2724 W. Fourth Ave., 604-738-7151. Thenaam.com